Your MRSA Questions Answered

Masur: There are many different reasons why a surgical site would not heal. It is not likely, after one year, that MRSA is the reason the wound has not healed, but to be certain the wound would have to be carefully examined. If there were evidence of infection by examination, or if an adjacent structure shows any suspicious area on some type of X-ray, a culture should be done. However, the wound could have a small amount of MRSA (colonization) on a chronic basis, but that MRSA might in this situation have no relevance to its failure to heal. A health care provider would have to make a decision about the utility of treatment after carefully reviewing your case.

Many patients who are infected with MRSA lose the organism when they leave the hospital and are no longer receiving antibiotics. Some patients become chronic carriers of MRSA, as do some patients who have never even been in the hospital. Those patients are not likely to spread MRSA if they practice good hygiene in terms of hand washing, showering, and avoiding sharing clothes and personal items such as razors. There is some controversy regarding the utility of screening for MRSA, specifically that it is not certain that a culture of your nose, skin and wound would be helpful if you have no clinical evidence of infection.

To protect others, you should practice good hygiene, keep your wound covered if it is open and draining, and wash your hands after touching your wound or dressing. Dispose of the wound dressings so that others do not come into contact with them. Ask your doctor if there is some special reason why you should be cultured or treated, neither of which is likely to be necessary from your brief description.

Question: I am a phlebotomist at Mercy Hospital in Council Bluffs and this news worries me a great deal. I have three kids and three step kids. I protect myself at work, but because this infection is noncurable, I want to know how it is transmitted. I wear gloves before I touch any of the patients. However, can this spread through droplets or contact? What can I do to better protect myself and my family and all others?

Masur: MRSA is a serious problem, but simple precautions can greatly reduce the likelihood of transmission, and it can be cured with drugs we have available now.

As you know from working in a hospital, the use of gloves followed by careful hand washing will go a long way towards preventing your acquiring MRSA. This organism almost always spreads by person to person contact, or from clothes or personal items such as razors. Spread by droplet rarely happens.

Thus, if you wear gloves and wash your hands, the likelihood that you will acquire this infection in the hospital or spread it to your family, is very, very low.

And remember, if skin abrasions get infected we can cure MRSA if the infection is accurately diagnosed and properly treated. We know how to manage this infection.

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